HTC Vive review: Virtual-reality headset is now £100 cheaper
Update: Alongside HTC Vive’s announcement of the price for its Vive Pro, the company has also revealed that the standard Vive kit is getting a £100 reduction. That brings the price down to £499.
HTC Vive used CES 2018 to reveal a brand-new HTC Vive headset with improved resolution, smoother tracking and a handful of new features. Known as the HTC Vive Pro, it’s primarily aimed at improving VR experiences for those really wanting the absolute best out of their headsets. It sports a 2,880 x 1,600 pixel display split across two eyes, a new headband that apes the Deluxe Audio Strap and two front-facing chaperone cameras.
If you have a HTC Vive, or were thinking about buying one, don’t be dismayed. The HTC Vive is still going strong, even if it’s about to get a new sibling. As the HTC Vive is one of the major headsets being adopted by businesses and consuimers alike, and the HTC Vive Pro runs on exactly the same specifications and software, your HTC Vive won’t be going anywhere fast.
So ahead of reading our HTC Vive review and buying your first HTC Vive headset, there’s a handful of things you need to keep in mind.
HTC Vive: What you need to know
1. HTC Vive is now readily available, buy for how long?
As the HTC Vive has now been out for coming on two years, it’s actually rather easy to get hold of. Previously you had to wait a long time until you would be able to buy a HTC Vive, but that’s no longer the case at most retailers.
With the Vive Pro on the way, however, stocks are likely to not replenish quite as quickly as you’d expect. This could lead to another shortage, especially if HTC Vive drop the price of the older headset as a means to promote the HTC Vive Pro.
2. It’s very pretty but doesn’t look as polished as Oculus Rift
Since the initial HTC Vive developer kit, HTC has smoothed out its pock-marked headset into a compact and, reasonably, stylish form. It’s got nothing on the futuristic aesthetics of Sony’s PlayStation VR or the premium fabric-wrapped finish of Oculus Rift, but it certainly won’t look out of place alongside your PC or TV.
It’s also worth noting that, while it may look like it’s made of cheap matte plastic, once you feel it in your hands it’s clearly a premium product. It has that solid yet warm and soft matte feel to it. It’s also surprisingly durable, and I’ve certainly seen enough of these being bashed around. Basically, it’s a blend of functional aesthetics and durable build quality, designed to be perfect for long play sessions and rugged enough to survive multiple users over the years.
3. Prepare to fork out for a high-end PC if you don’t already have one
The HTC Vive may have dropped in price from the initial £799 it started at, but the real kicker is picking up a PC that can run HTC Vive and do it justice. Prices have come down since we reviewed the Vive thanks to Nvidia’s newest wave of Pascal-driven cards hit the market, but you’ll really not want to go much lower than a GTX 980 and an Intel Skylake i5. Our review computer consisted of two Nvidia GTX 980’s SLI together, with a Skylake i7. You should be fine running Vive on a £800 or so rig.
4. You won’t need to get the HTC Vive Business Edition
Oooh, look at that hint of blue
Generally known as the Vive BE, HTC Vive’s newest version of its headset is little more than a rebranded unit with some extra business perks. You don’t need to be a business to buy one but, if you’d like a headset complete with snazzy blue trim and a dedicated customer support line and a 12-month warranty, the £849 Vive BE is for you.
HTC Vive BE is designed for individuals or small businesses who use Vive for commercial reasons. This isn’t the headset you’ll be using for viewing spreadsheets and tackling emails though. This headset is designed for those who plan to use for VR amusement arcades, take it to events as an experiential thing or use it for training tools or building products.
5. You definitely need lots of room – and high ceilings
While my height is going to skew the need for high ceilings compared to other Vive users, it’s definitely something you need to consider. I can’t count the times I whacked my hand on the ceiling whilst trying to reach for an arrow, shoot an enemy above me, or perform an overly-vigorous serve in Selfie Tennis.
HTC doesn’t mention the need for high ceilings, but in general, Vive can work in a space up to 4 x 4m, and both beacons need to be at least 2m off the ground to track you. If you want space around you for others to watch or walk without getting in the way of the sensors, you’ll need a lot of space.
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6. HTC Vive makes people sweat, like, a lot
While you definitely won’t care what people think of you when you’re playing inside VR, you may be more bothered by the red face mark the Vive leaves behind after a few minutes of vigorous play. It’s no big deal, but for some players that also means they’ll sweat a lot, and I mean a lot.
The best way to remedy this is to have the Vive’s other “narrow” face padding handy to switch out to once one pad becomes sodden. Generally, the Vive runs pretty cool, and the pads keep the device snug without cutting off airflow to the face. Still, nobody likes putting wet foam on their face.
7. It’s a pain to setup
While Vive is a breeze to play with, getting it to that point isn’t as simple as you’d hope. Not only do you have to find a room that’s the right size, but you’ll need to have enough plug sockets to get everything running. You’ll need at least a minimum of three sockets to get going (Vive headset and the two beacons) but if you also need to charge controllers quickly, you’ll need five.
If that’s no issue to you, you’ll also need to make sure you have an active internet connection during setup (although one isn’t necessarily needed for play). Once that’s out of the way, the actual guided setup process isn’t too taxing and can be done reasonably quickly. Just make sure to double check calibration as I ran into a couple of issues during setup.
8. Now I’ve used it, I can’t imagine a future without it
Having used the other major headsets on the market, I can safely say that the Vive is, by far, the best one out there right now. Room-scale VR is unparalleled. There’s nothing quite like the experience of being dropped into a virtual space and feeling like you can literally walk around and touch everything inside that space.
Your brain becomes accustomed to this virtual space very quickly and the worry is that, when you remove yourself from it, the weight of actual reality hits you because, for a moment, you were so convinced you were somewhere else.
Still unsure if the Vive is for you? Go read our full review of the HTC Vive on the next page.